What was she thinking? Why did she do it? Is she telling the truth? Why would a dead
girl lie? All of these questions are asked and answered in the new Netflix Original
series, “13 Reasons Why”. Based on the popular young adult novel by Jay Asher, “13
Reasons Why” explores the life of Hannah Baker, a 17 year old high school junior who
tragically committed suicide. Rather than leave a note, Hannah recorded a series of
cassette tapes, each detailing a person that indirectly motivated her to take her
own life. She intended the tapes be passed on from one individual to the next in the
chronological order of which they appear on the tapes. When the series begins, the
tapes are delivered to Clay Jensen, a close friend of Hannah’s who is shocked and
horrified that he is on Hannah’s list of reasons. He takes his time listening to the
tapes and confronting each person individually about what they did to Hannah, why
they did it, and how they will atone for it.
Katherine Langford gives an incredible breakout performance as Hannah, who is mostly
depicted throughout the series through flashback and Clay’s hallucinations.
Langford does a superb job of playing Hannah with so much built up pain while still
maintaining her easy-going personality. Dylan Minette of “Goosebumps” fame gives a
career-defining performance as the deeply troubled Clay. Minette shows a tremendous
range as the series progresses; he evolves from an average nerdy boy mourning the
loss of his friend into a courageous symbol of justice. Other highlights of the
talented cast include Alisha Boe as Hannah’s erratic ex-best friend Jessica,
Christian Navarro as the mysterious Tony, Justin Prentice as the sexual deviant
Bryce, Brandon Flynn as the troubled Justin Foley, Kate Walsh as Hannah’s grieving
mother Olivia, and Brian d’Arcy James as her husband Andy.
Developed for television by acclaimed playwright Brian Yorkey and “Spotlight”
director Tom McCarthy, “13 Reasons Why” offers one of the most real and honest
portrayals of life in high school ever depicted on screen. It doesn’t sugarcoat any
of the bullying, language, or acts of physical and sexual assault that are often
reported about in schools all over the world. The last two episodes contain
incredibly vicious scenes that are not for the squeamish, though I still feel they
should be viewed for the mere fact that the artists intended it to be uncomfortable
so that we may all have a better understanding as to how victims of abuse feel.
All in all, “13 Reasons Why” provides a clear lesson on how to treat your peers, and
to never forget that you don’t always know what someone may be going through. Highly